Wikipedia, the information hole we all fall into for hours on end, is now on the front lines of the #Gamergate controversy.
Ever since last summer’s attack on female video game journalists and players, there has been an editing tug-of-war over the Gamergate Wikipedia page between opposing sides of the controversy. In an attempt to end the constant revising, Wikipedia reportedly decided to ban five feminist editors who were trying to prevent the article from being rewritten with a pro-Gamergate slant.
Wikipedia is supposedly a democratically run encyclopedia, because anyone can edit their pages. However, their gender bias is notorious. Even Wikipedia acknowledges their gender problem, writing that “research suggests that the gender gap has a detrimental effect on content coverage: articles with particular interest to women tend to be shorter, even when controlling for variables that affect article length. Women typically perceive Wikipedia to be of lower quality than men do.”
Only one in ten of their editors are women, and these numbers aren’t likely to go up when the website punishes women for contributing. Wikipedia is the seventh biggest website on the internet, so its decision that sends a message to feminists in the gaming community and beyond. This is especially problematic since the five feminist editors banned aren’t allowed to work on any pages related to gender or sexuality, not just the Gamergate page.
In their statement, Wikipedia claims that their actions have nothing to do with the taking sides in the Gamergate debate, and that pro-Gamergate editors were banned as well:
“The Committee’s preliminary findings have been represented in some media stories as targeting feminist editors and attempting to prevent their contributions to gender-related topics. This is inaccurate. The findings of the Arbitration Committee deal exclusively with the documented conduct of editors on the English Wikipedia. They do not consider editor opinion, identity, affiliation, or beliefs, nor do they take into consideration an editor’s actions or affiliations outside of their participation on English Wikipedia, unless those actions are directly related to facilitating disruption on the encyclopedia. The Arbitration Committee does not and cannot take a stance on the content of articles, nor on broader issues such as the Gamergate controversy itself”.
But, as Think Progress noted, Wikipedia editor Mark Bernstein felt the decision was one-sided: “No sanctions at all were proposed against any of GamerGate’s warriors, save for a few disposable accounts created specifically for the purpose of being sanctioned,” Bernstein wrote on his blog. “By my informal count, every feminist active in the area is to be sanctioned.”
The good news: This isn’t a definitive decision yet, so the Wikipedia committee may change its mind.
Even better news: Gamergate victim and Feminist Frequency host (not to mention all-around badass) Anita Sarkeesian has two new video series on the way! While her previous videos focus on the negative portrayal of women in video games (and she promises more videos will address Gamergate issues of gendered online harassment), she will also be launching two new series this year on representations of men and masculinity in video games, and gaming’s positive female characters. Meanwhile, game developer and Gamergate target Zoe Quinn has just introduced, Crash Override, a network to protect from online harassment.
So the feminist fight for online safety and representation in the gaming world continues, with or without Wikipedia.